Friday, February 28, 2020

The Grad Student Strike at Santa Cruz - Part 14 (now in DC)

From Inside Higher Ed: A University of California conference on free speech turned into a microcosm of the free speech battles regularly taking place on American college campuses after student activists showed up at the event in Washington Thursday and interrupted speakers to advocate for raises for the system’s graduate teaching assistants.

The handful of undergraduates representing COLA for All, a group pressing for a $1,412 monthly cost of living adjustment, or COLA, for teaching assistants at all UC campuses, at times stood in front of and interrupted speakers and panelists at #SpeechMatters2020, which was hosted by the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. The protesters, who are studying at the university system’s Washington center, said it was ironic that the conference was addressing how institutions should allow campus activists to respectfully express themselves while, at the same time, conference organizers were moving the protesters to the side of the stage to keep their posters from blocking audience members' views of the speakers on the stage.

The protesters held signs outlining information about striking teaching assistants back in California and calling on UC president Janet Napolitano, who sat in the front row, to resign.

Michelle Deutchman, executive director of the center, told the students they could remain but could not disrupt speakers. She used the recommended language UC Irvine includes in its policy for “preventing and responding to disruptions in real time.”

It was “fitting” to witness a live demonstration at a conference centered around campus protests and how they are handled, said Akshita Gandra, a UC Davis student who attended the conference and is a recipient of a Valuing Open and Inclusive Conversation and Engagement grant from the UC National Center. Gandra said she understands the protesters' frustration about graduate student salaries, which has been an ongoing issue since she came to the Davis campus four years ago.

“It may have been good to let them have five minutes with the mike to talk about the cause,” Gandra said of the protesters.

Protestors Missy Hart and Jazleez Jacobo accused leaders of the conference of silencing them.

“Why are you censoring me?” Jacobo said of being ushered to the side of the conference stage. “It goes along with the tactics that the university uses to silence us. Yeah, everyone has access to free speech, we're allowed to demonstrate, but did we make it in the frame?”...

Full story at

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